If you’ve picked up a gamepad recently, there’s a good chance you’ve done so to save the universe, planet, or suburbs from swarms of undead uglies. Given the skyrocketing adrenaline rush that comes with freeing infected foes of their rotting innards, it’s no surprise that zombie games are as plentiful as they are popular.
The thing is, most of these post-apocalyptic interactive experiences are over-the-top, gore-soaked action romps that tax the reflexes but barely give the brain anything to do… well, aside from worrying about becoming an appetizer. While we unabashedly adore these thumb-blistering button-mashers, sometimes we crave more than the reward that comes with burying a blunt object into a walking corpse’s skull. And that’s where State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition shambles in.
An Xbox One-enhanced remaster of 2013’s cult-hit State of Decay, Year One-Survival Edition is a zombie survival fantasy game featuring varied gameplay elements – resource management, permadeath, base-building, stamina monitoring, and other skills not dependent on how well you can swing a spiked baseball bat – that have already seen the sub-genre become a favorite among the mouse-and-keyboard crowd. Don’t misunderstand though; State of Decay‘s visceral combat can go toe to foot-dragging toe with the best action games, but its twitchier elements represent just one thread within an organic tapestry of survival-focused features and mechanics.
Within its exploration-encouraging, sandbox world, players need to secure outposts, scavenge for goods, work with other survivors, and generally do whatever is necessary to ensure they see another sunrise. More than mere throwaway minigames or side-quests, though, these objectives are just as important as ensuring your blades are razor-sharp and your guns locked-and-loaded. Much like the emotionally-charged “The Walking Dead” TV series, State of Decay focuses as much on moment-to-moment survival scenarios, complicated personal interactions, and the value of a well-stocked supply stash – not to mention the backpack real estate to accommodate said stash – as it does the decomposing populace.
Thanks to its brilliant, layered mix of role-playing game elements, engaging character encounters, and, yes, corpse-carving combat, State of Decay can make a standard supply run feel as pulse-spiking as most games’ end-level boss battles. This feat is achieved through a number of nuanced systems and mechanics that complement the core survival focus. Ransacking an abandoned house, for example, can be done slowly and quietly, or quickly and dangerously; the latter seems like the most efficient option… until your carelessness brings a horde of hungry freaks to the front door.
State of Decay is brimming with such moments, many of which emerge unexpectedly as your own authored apocalypse adventure continuously enhances the game’s more scripted narrative. Of course, nothing will stop your heart quite like witnessing the seemingly slow-motion death of a fellow survivor. Dying is not only permanent in State of Decay, it’s also a fate that can befall your favorite character, including the one you’ve played as, progressed as, and nurtured since waking up on the wrong side of the apocalypse. You see, because your characters need to rest, heal and recover stamina, you’ll find yourself in the boots of many different survivors. If you’re more cocky than careful, a character you’ve invested hours into could end up on the business end of a zombie bite.
On top of delivering a scary-real zombie apocalypse survival scenario, State of Decay’s remaster also brings enough extras and enhancements to fill an abandoned church. On top of slick new 1080p visuals (improved lighting, textures, animations and draw distance), this definitive edition includes all of the original’s downloadable content, a new character for returning players, and many subtler enhancements, from more intuitive interfaces and menus to a default melee blade that guarantees you’ll never have to face a meatbag with just your flailing limbs.
Whether you’re a seasoned survivor or new recruit, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is a zombie game worth dying for… permanently.